Have meal times become a chore, are you spending your time tying to get as much food into your little one as possible? Let's relook at our role within our child's diet and bring back relaxed, more enjoyable meal times.
The Division of Responsibility
When it comes down to child feeding, the evidence is contradicting and often limited and by no means one size fits all, so please take the info in this blog as suggestions of things to maybe try with your family, experiment with the ideas and see what, if anything can be applied with your family.
So what, as parents and carers do we want to achieve?
To be able to raise kids that have a healthy relationship with food and a healthy relationship with their body. We want children to grow up choosing foods that nourish their body and for food to never over rule their lives.
How do we do this? Raise intuitive eaters!
"Kids are born with the innate ability to regulate their own feeding and its through parents, although well intended and also diet culture that we push children away from their own internal regulation"
With the best intentions we make comments like ‘clear your plate before you go out to play’, or ‘finish your veg else you can’t have dessert’ and ‘finish your dinner else you won’t grow big strong’. These kinds of comments encourage children to ignore their own internal signals for how much food they need and instead listen to their parents demands. This overtime erodes their innate hungry signals and potentially leads them to over consuming foods.
So how can we promote intuitive eating with children? Try following this simple model designed by paediatric registered dietitian, Ellyn Satter, called The Division of Responsibility.
Her model divides feeding into 2 parts, the responsibility of the parent and the responsibility of the child and it looks a little like this:
The idea of the model is that it builds structure around food, it does require you to trust your child! It should also take the pressure of you as a parent, you decide what, where and when and then leave the rest to the child. The model should also mean you only have to cook one meal and its should also be enjoyable.
This model can be done with all ages of children. In babies you decide whether to give them breast milk or formula and allow yourself to trust those natural cues they give you when they have had enough, such as turning their head away. The same if you are weening your little on, look for those natural cues they are giving you that they have had enough and are full, like turning their head and getting distracted.
So what would this look like in my home?
So you’ve cooked jacket potatoes for dinner, you have decided you will serve them at the dinner table, with a few choice of toppings. You have put on the table beans, cheese, tuna, a salad bowl with a side of avocado. That is your job done! Your child then chooses what they feel they need for that meal. Let them pick and choose, it may be hard at first when they only put a handful of cheese on their potato but give them time, if they are not forced into it, they may go back for some tuna and even some salad, who it may not happen this week, try again next week.
At first it can be hard to take a step back and trust your child as it is the cultural norm to get food into children, try some gentle encouragement at first and trust that they know what they need for their body.
The biggest change I think there is for parents is changing the way we frame our phrases around words. Below are a few suggestions to promote intuitive eating: